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Winter pear charlotte with candied sweet chestnuts and Whisky custard.

 

Apple Charlotte is a classic pudding. Reputedly created for Queen Charlotte (Wife of King George III) in the 1700’s. This is an individual pudding made in a ‘timbale’ or ‘dariole mould’ using slices of white bread and stewed fruit. This is Autumns answer to summer pudding. Traditionally with apples however pears make an obvious and interesting alternative.

 

There are 2 pear seasons – summer and winter. Winter pears are so called because they need a period of time in cold storage before they ripen. Interestingly pears ripen from the inside out therefore if they are left to develop on the tree and picked when they are visibly ‘ripe’ their insides would be mushy. Therefore they are picked hard and ‘green’ and matured inside.

 

This custard is not made using custard powder and warm milk but a careful combination of egg yolks whisked with sugar, milk and double cream. Gently cooked so as not to scramble the eggs.

 

Making the sweet chestnuts takes time (a few days!) but is easy to do and well worth it. Thet could be replaced by walnuts or anything that provides a crunch.

 

Chefs note – this is definitely better as an individual dessert as it is more presentable and refined however it could be made in as a family sized pudding using a larger mould. ramekins would make a good replacement for dariole moulds but you may need more bread.

Ingredients

Serves 4

For the charlotte

  • Thick while bread (fresh is better) 12 slices
  • Butter 175g
  • Firm but ripe pears (Concord or Conference are good varieties) 1 kg
  • Sugar To sweeten the stewed fruit
  • Spices such as ground cinnamon (optional) To taste.

 

For the chestnuts

  • Sweet chestnuts 500g
  • Sugar 500g
  • Water 500ml

 

Chefs note – this will make more than you need but they make great sweet treats for the kids!

 

For the custard

  • Semi skimmed milk 125ml
  • Double cream 125ml
  • Egg yolks 3
  • Sugar 50g
  • Whisky 1 table spoon

Method

 

Make the sweet chestnuts

  • Cut a cross in each chestnut and boil in lightly salted water for 10 minutes.
  • Strain, allow to cool slightly then peel the hard shell and the soft skin form the chestnuts.
  • Use the 500g of sugar and 500ml of water to make a syrup. Add the prepared chestnuts and cook for 10 minutes stirring all the time.
  • Pour the whole lot into a container, loosely cover and leave to soak for 10 – 12 hours.
  • Pour back into a clean pan and boil again for 2 minutes. Cool and cover again overnight. Repeat 2 or 3 times or until there is no liquid left.
  • Pre heat the oven to 200oC Arrange the chestnuts on a lined baking sheet, place in the oven and turn off the heat. Allow the chestnuts to dry out for 45minuts to 1 hour. Store in an airtight container until required.

 

Make the charlotte

  • Peel, core and dice the pears.
  • Melt 25g of butter in a pan and stew the pears until tender. Sweeten and add spices to taste then allow to cool.
  • Pre heat an oven 200oC . Get 4 small dariole moulds. Melt the rest of the butter.
  • Take the crusts off the bread and cut 8 of the slices in half. Cut 2 circles out of each of the other slices of bread 1 larger than the other. You should have 4 small circles for the bottom of the moulds and 4 larger ones for the tops.
  • Dip the 4 small circles in the melted butter and place at the bottom of the moulds.
  • Dip the slices of bread in the butter and line each of the moulds making sure there are no gaps. Lightly press the bread into the sides of the moulds to form a seal.
  • Fill each mould with the pear mixture. Dip the larger 4 circles of bread into the butter and top each mould again making sure there is a good seal.
  • Place in the oven for 15mintues then turn the oven down to 180oC and bake for a further 20 minutes until the bread is golden on the top.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to rest and cool slightly before attempting to turn them out.

 

Make the custard

  • Whisk the egg yolks together with the sugar until pale, slightly thick and creamy.
  • Gently warm the milk and cream until it is just beginning to bubble. Pour the milk and cream on to the egg and sugar mixture and whisk together. Return the mixture to a clean saucepan.
  • Heat up very slowly, stirring all the time. As soon as it begins to thicken, or coats the back of the wooden spoon, remove from the heat and pour into a bowl or jug for serving. Stir in the whiskey.

 

To assemble

  • Carefully turn out each charlotte and place in the centre of a plate ideally the same way up so the crispy bread is still on the top.
  • Spoon on a little of the custard and garnish with chestnuts,
  • Serve the rest of the custard separately.

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